The Poor in Spirit

Today we begin a series on the Beatitudes which are the words of the Lord Christ in His sermon on the mount as recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew. We will look at writings of the fathers on these verses.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.     [Mt. 5:3]

Saint Chrysostom: “What is meant by the ‘poor in spirit’? The humble and contrite mind. For by spirit herein He speaks of the soul and the faculty of choice. For since many are humble involuntarily, but forced under circumstances, He lets these pass (for this is no matter of praise), and calls them happy first who by choice humble and restrain themselves. And on what account does He not say ‘the humble’ but ‘the poor’? For this is more than that. He means those who are awestruck and tremble at the commandments of God….By this He has prepared a suitable remedy to the disease of pride, since the greatest of evils and those which injured the whole world had their entering in from pride.” [Homily 15]

Saint Gregory of Nyssa: “The end of the life of virtue is to become like unto God. Yet man can by no means imitate that purity that is without passion. For it is simply impossible that the life that is enmeshed in passions should become like the Nature that is impervious to passions. There are, however, things belonging to the Godhead which are set up for the imitation of those who so wish. It seems to me that by poverty of the spirit the Logos understands voluntary humility….Would you like to know who it is that is poor in spirit? He who is given the riches of the soul in exchange for material wealth, who is poor for the sake of the spirit. He has shaken off earthly riches like a burden, so that he may be lightly lifted into the air and be borne upwards.” [The Beatitudes, Sermon 1]

(The Orthodox New Testament, Volume 1, Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, Colorado)

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